Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Employing New TACTics

 April has been a month of struggle against my natural instincts, to be sure.

I seemed to set goals for the week on Sunday night--goals that would bring me closer to my envisioned end--only to crash and burn sometime Tuesday afternoon.

Last Saturday was the worst of all.  I woke up exhausted, looked at myself in the mirror, descended the stairs to a messy house (reminders of the two birthday parties I hosted on Friday), and then, because I was completely disgusted with my house and my body and my mental state, I crawled back into bed until 9 am.  Unfortunately, even another few winks of sleep couldn't dispel my dark mood.

You see, I have set these goals for myself--high, yet seemingly attainable goals--and NEVER do I achieve them all in a day.  I fail.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Every day.  Every night I go to bed and tell myself, "Tomorrow is another day (with full credit to Miss Scarlett for that mantra)," and when I wake up I think, "Yep, it's today," and that night I get back into bed flooded with feelings of failure and insecurity.

This was the mood that filled my soul Saturday morning.  Nothing I'd been doing was measuring up to my standards.  Nothing was right with the world.  All was wrong and failure and incomplete.  I knew down deep that I should exercise and that I'd feel better afterwards, but getting my running clothes out of the closet was as far as I got before I discarded them on the bed and crawled back between the sheets for another thirty minutes of mindless sleep--a retreat from all the negative self-talk and messy environment around me.

By the time I escaped the call of my bed for the THIRD time that morning, it was 10:30 and I knew my exercise window was closing.  With all the gumption I could muster, I pulled on my clothes and shoes, snagged my iPad from Brad's nightstand, and headed down to the treadmill in the dungeon of our house. I set the speed low--low like my mood--and pulled up my blog list.

Here are a few of the gems I found that morning:
original image from here

I clicked over to Nester's weekend links and found myself smiling ten times in a row as I worked through mile four.  It worked.  The simple act of smiling lightened my mood and my mind.

I found a link to this article, You Don't Have to Pander, on Centsational Girl's weekend reading list. Blogging is a beautiful, fantastic, sometimes humiliating and self-defeating endeavor.  Why are some blogs hot and others (like mine) flounder in the less popular bracket? After reading Seth's blog and his perspective, I reevaluated my writing, gave myself credit for some achievements (out of over 280 entries, my pantry was featured at I Heart Organizing! That's huge!), and remembered a few recent conversations when people had told me my blog had touched them in some way. Those little comments make me so happy--just knowing that what you write is being read . . . yeah.  Happy.

I read Why I Rock by my college roommate Paige. Go read it.

Glad you're back.  As I read her post, I began a mental list of all the things I had accomplished during the week.  Although my exercise goal had been three miles every single day, I had missed three days (sigh.  I even hate writing that.). But AT THAT MOMENT I was on the treadmill.  That counts for something, right?  And even though my total goal for the week was eighteen miles, I logged a total of six miles that morning, doubling my total for the entire week. Six extremely sweaty miles that fell far short of my sixty-minute completion goal.  Sometimes, the achievement needs to be marked in the distance, not in the time it took to get there.  I had done it. Thanks, Paige, for the kick in the pants.

It took the entire six miles for me to untangle all the negative self-talk in my head--to find where I really should be and to give myself an as-objective-as-one-can-be-with-oneself evaluation of my progress towards my goals of acting with purpose, acting without reacting, and acting to serve others.  How had I really done this last month?

I may have had a messy house that day, but I spent the entire day serving two of my favorite children and their friends, celebrating birthday milestones with mountains of crepes, sheets of soft pretzels, gallons of paint--making memories for life.

I may have broken my eating goals almost every day this last month, but I identified some triggers and some issues that I can address to make things better in the future.

I may have slacked in my running, but I attended yoga four times that week, and I am improving my balance and strength each day.

I may have missed opportunities for meaningful service to others, but I did spend over an hour talking with our neighbors one night, helping them sort through a crisis of belief and hopefully helping them reach a satisfactory solution.

Yes, I had failed on numerous occasions.  Yes, I did not have a single day in April where I felt I had achieved my goals perfectly.  What I did realize this month is that life is an all-out war--war against our natural tendencies towards easy and lazy.  It's an uphill battle--one that is constantly waged daily in the trenches of life.  Little skirmishes litter the way, and often we lose those little skirmishes to our weaknesses.  The key is to keep focusing on the larger war--the uphill battle.  Am I farther up the hill than I was a month ago?  A year ago?  What have I learned about myself and others as I've been battling?  How has this changed who I am intrinsically and spiritually?

Most importantly, that six-mile jaunt on the treadmill focused me on another issue--I need to act kindly not only to others but to myself as well.  My cousin Myke is embarking on a similar journey this year, and his latest Steinbeck quote hit me deep:

"It requires a self-esteem to receive—not self-love but just a pleasant acquaintance and liking for oneself."
                  — John Steinbeck, "About Ed Ricketts" 

Hard to read.  Harder to do. 

Just like Dory, I'm going to just keep swimming.  Swimming, swimming, swimming. 

And the answer to the battle questions?  In all honesty, I do feel like I am farther up the hill than I was a year ago.  I may have lost some ground in April, but the next battle is beginning, and I think I have better field position this time.


  1. WOW! I had no idae you beat yourself up so much. You do NOT suck! I repeat...you DO NOT SUCK! Not even when your daily/monthly/weekly goals are not met...not EVER! You are amazing in so many ways and you're right. You just gotta keep swimming :)

  2. Another thing you have done this month: shared your journey with the rest of us -- we grow and learn together when you share yourself and experiences (or least I do).

    Your comments on battle and war remind a lot of Elder Holland's talk from conference at the beginning of the month, especially this: "Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes," and this: "The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know." It sounds like you're doing quite a bit to demonstrate that integrity.

  3. I am one who gets motivation and laughs from reading your blog. You are, like my mother, what I call a "striver". It gives you pain because of your high goals, but pushes you to achieve. I am glad when you recognize your great achievements and give yourself some room.

  4. I enjoy your blog and think you are doing awesome. And believe me your blog is "popular". (I think my cute cousin Karli is getting excited!)

  5. What Laraine said.

    And your blog is more popular than mine, so... !

    In my yoga class, they are always telling us to look at our eyes in the mirror. The person in the reflection is your best friend and ally in the class (and in the world)--you should not avoid your own gaze. Embrace whatever you are today and whatever body you came with.

    I always need that reminder.

  6. I have heard you lament not being a popular blogger before and it always surprises me honestly. You seem to have a really great life and adorable family and lots of people who do appreciate your writing (including me!) I can tell you that none of your faithful band of readers cares if you are popular, we appreciate all of the great things you are. I hope this didn't come across meanly, because my intent is quite the opposite.

  7. I think you've hit the nail on the head. It matters not that we don't achieve perfection in all things. What matters is that we are, generally speaking, moving forward. Some days we make take a few steps back, but as Robert Brault says, that's a cha-cha.
    I like that you feel further along than you did - what was it, last year? Then hurray for you! You've progressed, gained wisdom, fitness, perspective. Me too. We're not perfect, but hurray for us!

  8. This is right where I am at too, Jen...

    Being content with my season of life, with its ups and downs and constant chaos. Perfection in just one area would've nice, wouldn't it?

  9. Great post.
    Very thought provoking and a good read for everyone.

  10. This was so real. And so similar to my feelings. I found this really cool post. YOu should read it. Changes how I see myself.

  11. I see Stef had the same thoughts I did about the "Drops of Awesome" post. If you haven't read it you really should it's....well, Awesome!

    I also love that Laraine said you are a "striver." Learning to recognize, and appreciate that part of your personality will be a real blessing.

    Hope you had an awesome day today--or at least you had a few drops of awesome to add to your bucket today :)

  12. Jen, you are very hard on yourself - it sounds like the way you're made. I'm glad you found your way to the treadmill and the chance to read some things that helped you even out your view. Goals are good, striving is good, struggling can be good, high standards are good - but sometimes so is acceptance.
    You seem to me to be an amazing woman - gift to your husband and family.

  13. Ok, you intense woman, chill out just a bit. But I have days like that, where everything I do it not good enough. In fact, most days are like that. YESTERDAY, in fact, ended with my son banging against the wall in his room screaming I HATE YOU. Sigh. But today is a new day, and I can do something good today.

    Thanks for the shout out to my blog. It gives me warm fuzzies that it meant something to you.

    Hang in there!

  14. Ok, you intense woman, chill out just a bit. But I have days like that, where everything I do it not good enough. In fact, most days are like that. YESTERDAY, in fact, ended with my son banging against the wall in his room screaming I HATE YOU. Sigh. But today is a new day, and I can do something good today.

    Thanks for the shout out to my blog. It gives me warm fuzzies that it meant something to you.

    Hang in there!

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